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tv   Religion Ethics Newsweekly  WHUT  April 2, 2012 7:30am-8:00am EDT

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coming up, a question for holy week -- where exactly was jesus crucified and buried? also, ethiopians who insist they are jews and have a right to become israelis. plus, an illustrator's guide to a new haggadah, the exodus story told at every passover seder.
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welcome, i'm bob abernethy. it's good to have you with us. religious groups were a vocal presence outside the supreme court this week, as they rallied both for and against president obama's healthcare law. on the first morning of arguments, liberal religious leaders held a prayer service and press conference, calling healthcare a moral imperative. >> because in order to form a more perfect union, in order to establish justice in our society, we as the faith community know, we are called to bring health care to all. >> several conservative religious groups also weighed in
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on the case, arguing that requiring everyone to have health insurance would be overreach of federal power. many also said the law will infringe on religious freedom by forcing faith groups to pay for contraceptive services they oppose. pope benedict xvi called for more religious freedom in cuba this week during his three-day visit to that country. at an open-air mass in havana's revolution square, the pope said catholics must be allowed to preach and celebrate their faith in public. religious freedom w among the topics discussed in a meeting with cuban president raul castro, during which the pope asked that good friday be made a national holiday in cuba. benedict also met with fidel castro, in what was described as a very cordial exchange between the two men. the former cuban leader reportedly asked the pope, what do popes do? the two discussed humanitarian
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concerns and castro asked about changes in the catholic liturgy. the pope's trip to latin america also included two days in mexico, where he met with local leaders and presided over an outdoor mass for more than 350,000 people. in philadelphia, testimony began in the high-profile case of a catholic church official charged with failing to report clergy sex abuse. monsignor william lynn, who oversaw priests in the archdiocese from 1992 to 2004, is the first high-ranking catholic official facing criminal charges in conjunction with the sex abuse crisis. lynn claims he did report suspected priests to his superior at the time, cardinal anthony bevilacqua. bevilacqua died in january. lynn's trial is expected to last for months. several religious leaders are calling for a thorough
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investigation into the killing of unarmed florida teenager trayvon martin, who was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer last month. many said the case is a civil rights issue and others expressed outrage at what they described as law enforcement's failure to act quickly. at african-american and other congregations around the country, pastors and church-goers wore hooded sweatshirts -- hoodies -- to show solidarity with martin's family. mississippi is the most religious state in america according to the gallup poll. researchers asked people in all 50 states how important religion was in their daily lives and how often they attend church. in mississippi, 59% were described as "very religious." in vermont, only 23% fell into that category, making it the least religious state in the country. meanwhile, about 10,000 people describing
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themselves as atheists, agnostics or nonbelievers gathered on the national mall for what they called the reason rally. they hoped to draw attention to the concerns of secular people. the dalai lama is the winner of the 2012 templeton prize, the world's largest to an individual. this year, $1.7 million. the dalai lama was honored for his recognition of the role science can play in supporting spirituality, and for his commitment to compassion and better understanding between religions. the dalai lama spoke of his "little service to humanity," and called himself a "simple buddhist monk." he plans to donate his prize money to help malnourished children in africa and asia. as western christians celebrate holy week leading up to easter, pilgrims are flooding into jerusalem. many of those pilgrims try to retrace jesus's footsteps during the last events of his life.
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but do they know exactly where jesus was crucified and buried? kim lawton looked into this during her recent visit to israel. >> reporter: during holy week, christians remember the familiar story of jesus's death and resurrection. but exactly where does that story take place? the bible offers only a few clues. >> the gospels weren't really written to record a history. they were written to provide a testimony of faith. ♪ >> reporter: according to the new testament, jesus was crucified at a spot outside jerusalem called golgotha, which in aramaic means "place of the skull." the latin word for skull is calvaria, and in english many christians refer to the site of the crucifixion as calvary.
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the gospel of john says there was a garden at golgotha, and a tomb which had never been used. since the tomb was nearby, john says, that's where jesus's body was placed. the gospel writers say the tomb was owned by a prominent rich man, joseph of arimathea. they describe it as cut out of rock, with a large stone that could be rolled in front of the entrance. father mark morozowich is acting dean of the school of theology and religious studies at the catholic university of america. >> at the time of jesus, when he was crucified, he was not really a significant feature in israel. i mean, certainly there was jealousy, certainly he had his followers. but there was no church that was built immediately upon his death or to mark his resurrection. >> reporter: in the fourth century, as emperor constantine was consolidating the roman
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empire under christianity, his mother, st. helena, traveled to jerusalem. according to tradition, she discovered relics of the cross upon which jesus had been crucified. the spot had been venerated by early christians, and she concluded it was golgotha. constantine ordered the construction of a basilica, which became known as the church of the holy sepulchre. >> now people throughout history have debated was it really there, or was it here? traditionally in that fourth century time that was so amazing they found this rock and this tomb not far from one another as we see even today in the church, you know, they're just a short distance from one another. >> reporter: over the centuries, the church of the holy sepulchre was destroyed, rebuilt and renovated several times. there have been numerous power struggles over who should control it, and even today, sometimes violent squabbles can break out among the several
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christian denominations that share jurisdiction. but it is considered one of the holiest sites in christianity, a massive place of pilgrimage and intense spiritual devotion. at the entrance, visitors can kiss the stone of unction, which according to tradition, marks washed for burial. the dark chapel commemorating the crucifixion is in one upper corner, and the place marking the tomb on the other side. >> to walk in jerusalem, the place of the crucifixion, to meditate at golgotha where jesus christ died, the place where he rose from the tomb. so they are very beautiful and very moving moments when a person can have a very deep relationship with god. >> reporter: during holy week in particular, the holy sepulchre is the center for special devotions, such as the holy fire ritual, where flames from inside the tomb area are passed among the candles of worshippers. >> the bishop brings out the light from the tomb and this
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illuminates and plays on this whole sense of the light of the world coming forth again. >> reporter: but despite the history and devotion, some question whether that indeed is the true spot. some christians, including many protestants, believe jesus could have been crucified and buried at a different place in jerusalem known as the garden tomb. >> the tomb was discovered in 1867. for hundreds of years before that it had lain buried under rock and rubble and earth and things had grown on top of it. >> reporter: steve bridge is deputy director at the garden tomb, which is located just outside the old city's damascus gate. he says this site was promoted in the late 19th century by british general charles gordon, who argued that the hillside with the features of a human skull could be actual crucifixion site. >> when we're looking, now we're looking side on, and you can see maybe what looks like the two eye sockets there on the rock face. the bible tells us jesus was crucified outside the city walls
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at a place called golgotha, which simply means the skull, and so many people believe that skull hill is golgotha, the place of the skull where jesus died. >> reporter: this skull hill looms over an ancient garden, with cisterns and a wine press, which could indicate that it was owned by a wealthy person. in the garden was a tomb, hewn from the rock. >> the tomb itself is at least 2,000 years old. many date it as older than that. but it's certainly not less than 2,000 years old. it's a jewish tomb. it's definitely a rolling stone tomb. that means the entrance would be sealed by rolling a large stone across. >> reporter: inside the tomb is a 1,300-year-old marking of a cross with the byzantine words "jesus christ, the beginning and the end." >> so there's burial space for at least two bodies, probably more. that, again, matches the bible description. it was a family tomb that joseph had built for himself and his family. >> reporter: bridge says christians are deeply moved by this visual image of where jesus
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may have been placed after he was taken down from the cross. >> on that day, as far as people were concerned, that was the end of the story, that was the end of one that they had hoped would be the messiah, because a dead messiah is no good. but three days later, we believe god raised jesus to life and that was the start of what we now call christianity, of course. >> reporter: according to bridge, the garden tomb is not trying to set up a competition with the church of the holy sepulchre. >> there's no doubt that, historically, the church of the holy sepulchre has the evidence on its side, and we certainly wouldn't want to do or say anything that would suggest that we think they're wrong about the site or that we think that we're right. what we say we have here is something that matches the bible description. >> reporter: and bridge says, for him, it doesn't ultimately matter where the actual place is. >> that's very secondary to jesus himself, who we believe he is, and why he died, and, you know, on that score us and the
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holy sepulchre would be exactly the same, telling the same story but on a different site. >> reporter: father morozowich agrees that, especially at easter time, christians should focus more on what jesus did, rather than on where he may have done it. >> where he walked is very, very important. at the same time though, we know that jesus is more than this historical figure that walked the earth, and in his resurrection, he transcends all of that. so he is as real and present in mishawaka and in washington, d.c., as he is in jerusalem. >> reporter: i'm kim lawton reporting. this week of jewish remembrance of the exodus story, of long ago, we have a fred de sam lazaro report about jews in ethiopia who yearn to emigrate to israel for a better life and,
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mainly, they say, to practice their jewish faith. they say israel's law of return permits them to become israelis. but some israelis wonder whether they are really jews. >> reporter: every day, hundreds of people gather in a makeshift worship center on the outskirts of ethiopia's capital, addis ababa. they profess their judaism in prayers, pictures, and words. they're hoping to be heard most immediately by authorities in israel, which they call the promised land. many left spartan farm lives in the rural north of this ancient east african nation and moved to the city years ago in hopes that they, like thousands before them, would be taken to israel. >> our members are suffering. they are destitute. they don't have places to sleep. >> i come to follow god's word.
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he said, "as i disperse you i shall bring you together. because of that i want to go back to the jewish home." >> reporter: their pleas have fallen mostly on skeptical ears even though more than 75,000 ethiopians, including many relatives of these people, were accepted in recent years into israel. their acceptance into israeli society, however, has been difficult. many in israel's religious leadership have questioned whether the ethiopians are truly jewish. many were subjected to conversion rituals upon their arrival in israel. in recent years, ethiopians, particularly in the second generation, have taken to street protests. >> i think what we are looking here today is thousands of ethiopians saying here to the israeli society no to discrimination, no for racism. all of us we came here to israel to be equal with israeli society. >> reporter: the ethiopian jewish tradition dates back hundreds of years -- many
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believe more than 2,000 years. >> the origin of ethiopian jews dates back to biblical times when the queen of sheba or magda first went to visit king solomon, and she returned bearing a child conceived during this visit. the young prince, later king melenik, went to israel to meet his father when he was 20, and he returned to ethiopia accompanied by 1,000 members from each of the tribes of israel. >> reporter: other migrations followed from ancient israel, he says, but this account has a number skeptics. >> it's more of a legend than historical truth. >> reporter: getachew haile, a religion historian now in minnesota, says there's no evidence of any trail linking ethiopia directly with ancient israel. >> we have greek inscriptions, arabic inscriptions. there is nothing in the sort of hebrew inscriptions.
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>> reporter: more likely, he says, jews came here from the arabian peninsula or yemen centuries later and settled amid certain isolated populations, helping convert them from the orthodox christianity that predominated. >> one possibility, this is a theory, is that some people might have migrated from over the red sea, come into ethiopia, and converted them. the other is within the ethiopian community, within the christian community, who rejected christianity. >> reporter: through the ages, he says, some ethiopian kings enforced a rigid conformance to the predominant orthodox christianity. those outside this system, called falasha or foreigners, have been marginalized. >> they are considered outcasts, and i have no doubt that they have been treated like that
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within the ethiopian christians. >> reporter: thanks in large part to this persecution, the so-called "falasha" became ethiopia's poorest people, and this has complicated the transition for many who went to israel from medieval poverty to a first-world economy. still, for the ethiopians it is a huge improvement in the standard of living. mengistu kebede, who returned to addis ababa on vacation recently to visit family, gave us some perspective. it was a difficult adjustment to life in israel, he says, but well worth it. >> it's significantly better. everybody wears shoes, they get enough pay for work, their clothes there are nice. everything is much better. >> reporter: as part of earlier groups who were airlifted amid ethiopia's famine and civil war in the 1980s and '90s, kebede received a relatively warm welcome under israel's law of return. today, however, the issue of
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economic motivation has clouded the politics of migration. >> i understand that there's a perception that people coming from poor countries, from africa, are coming for the economic benefits. but the issue is it's the national law of israel as well as the religious law to allow all jews to return to israel. it's what god promised. as far as we know, all who have applied are bona fide jews, and while there are advantages, the true motivation is a religious one. >> reporter: amid the social, political, and economic challenges involving ethiopian migration, israel's government has restricted the number it will allow in. in 2010, the government, in a move that it said should absorb all remaining jews in ethiopia, authorized visas for 8,000 new migrants. they'll be allowed in in phases through 2016. most of these worshipers did not make the cut. deliverance to the promised land for these people, whose numbers are estimated in the low
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thousands, could take years, if it happens at all. for "religion & ethics newsweekly," this is fred de sam lazaro in addis ababa, ethiopia. if you are going to a passover seder this coming thursday, you probably will read from a haggadah, the book of stories and prayers that guides every detail of the seder ritual. a new york illustrator, mark podwal, helped create a new haggadah for reform jews. the hidden matzoh, the four children -- podwal illustrates them all, combining his own imagination with haggadahs from the middle ages. >> what's unique about this haggadah is trying to draw in as many people as possible to participate in the service. that's why it's called "sharing the journey." there are wonderful explanations that are very inclusive, and so you can come to this seder not
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knowing anything. although i try to be as original as possible, i like to have some tradition not only in the concepts but in the images that are used. i wanted somehow to include the seder plate visually because it's there in description, and i also wanted to make a reference to medieval haggadahs where there were large letters that illuminated a page, and so what i decided to do was have that image with the three letters of the word "seder" and within the samech, the first letter, i drew the seder plate. in trying to come up with an original way to depict the four children, i did them as books and as the torah, so the wise child, his body is the torah, his arm is the torah pointer, his head is an open book. the wicked son, or the wicked child, is in a suit of armor. the first time the wicked son was depicted in an illustrated haggadah was in 1526, the prague haggadah, where the wicked child
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is depicted in a suit of armor. the first time the ten plagues were illustrated was in the venice haggadah from 1609, and i came up with just illustrating one plague, the last plague, when god slays the first-born of egypt, and the way i depicted that was by having a wing and the mummies of the dead egyptians on the wing. the traditional haggadah text doesn't even mention moses. it's repeatedly said it's god who led the children of israel out of egypt. it wasn't an angel, it wasn't an angel of fire, it wasn't a messenger. it was god and it's a very beautiful passage. the tradition is that all the jewish people were at sinai for the receiving of the torah. so there were the tents of the children of israel, and what i did was to identify them as such i put the flags representing the various tribes. i drew mount sinai as the ten commandments itself.
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it's also one of my favorite images. the afikomen is part of the middle matzoh that was hidden. it's then needed to complete the seder, and a custom is that it's hidden and children go to find it, and whoever finds it will get some kind of reward. i used that image to hide the afikomen within a prayer book, within the haggadah itself, and then the afikomen serves as a bookmark. i came up with putting elijah's cup in front of the golden gate in jerusalem because the tradition is that the golden gate is where the messiah will come through into jerusalem and that elijah will lead the messiah, and so that's why the cup is waiting for elijah in front of the golden gate. another image that's in the haggadah that is a reference to a previous haggadah is the illustrations to the song at the end of the seder, "adir hu," "mighty is he god." it says in that song, "may god rebuild his temple speedily in our days."
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i drew the torah enclosing jerusalem, and the rebuilt temple based upon how the temple was drawn in the 1695 amsterdam haggadah. these paintings were really an unexpected gift. kafka once wrote that writing was prayer, and for me my art is prayer. and finally, as we noted, western christians are observing holy week. it begins with palm sunday, when according to the new testament story, jesus entered jerusalem riding on a donkey and was greeted by crowds waving palm fronds. many churches commemorate palm sunday with special processions. on maundy thursday, christians remember the last supper or the final meal jesus had with his disciples. some clergy wash the feet of
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their congregants, as jesus is believed to have done for his disciples at the last supper. in some churches, members wash each other's feet. good friday is the day of the crucifixion. many christians follow the stations of the cross, a series of reflections on the final events of jesus's life. others hold special, very somber services remembering his death. and then, it all culminates with the joyous celebration of the resurrection on easter sunday. that's our program for now. i'm bob abernethy. you can follow us on twitter and facebook, find us on youtube, and watch us anytime, anywhere on smartphones. there's also much more on our website, including more of mark podwal's artwork and more about new passover haggadahs. you can comment on all of our stories and share them. audio and video podcasts are also available. join us at pbs.org.
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as we leave you, more scenes from previous holy week observances.
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